The American Academy of Physician Assistants describes a physician assistant as a graduate of an accredited PA educational program which is authorized by the state to practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician. PAs are invaluable members of the health care team, working in concert with physicians to ensure the highest quality of care for patients.

To practice as a physician assistant, the PA must attend an accredited PA program. Prior to admission, the typical PA student has a bachelor’s degree and approximately 4 years of health care experience. After extensive class and lab instruction they complete more that 2,000 hours in clinical rotations.

They must then pass the national PA certification exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of PAs (NCCPA) which is open only to graduates of accredited PA programs. They must also be licensed by their state’s medical licensing board. They are certified by the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington, DC to prescribe medication.

In their title, (PA-C) the “C” means certified.